Bill Russell: Legend review – the life and legacy of the NBA legend

February 2, 2023 (Last updated: last month)
Romey Norton 0
Film Reviews, Netflix, Streaming Service


A wonderful tribute to a pretty phenomenal life. With more rings than fingers, Bill Russell was a champion who leaves behind a strong legacy, as an NBA star and activist. A true icon.

We review the Netflix documentary film Bill Russell: Legend, which will be released on February 8th, 2023. 

This definitive documentary is about the life and legacy of the NBA star, legend, and civil rights activist Bill Russell. Award-winning director Sam Pollard (Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power, MLK/FBI) brings audiences exclusive interviews with Bill before his passing in 2022 at the respectful age of 88.

Russell has achieved 11 NBA titles, five league MVP awards, 12 All-Star selections, and many other honors/awards during his life. Even after he retired he had a brief career in film and television, and lectured and critiqued basketball. It’s clear Russell never stopped and had one of the most driven personalities I’ve seen. 

Bill Russell: Legend Review

A humble beginning, basketball and back-to-back NCAA titles, as well as Olympic medals, his thirteen-year career is exciting and inspiring. Russell has a legacy unmatched, he’s described as having a defensive intensity, stellar basketball IQ and a strong desire to win. With more rings than fingers, he was five times voted the most valuable player in the NBA and outside the NBA he marched with MLK (Martin Luther King), stood with Ali, and spent a life fighting for an equal playing field in a white America. It’s safe to say that this docu-series is a fantastic tribute to a well-loved and will-be-missed pioneer of our time. 

This documentary also shares the brutal truth about racism in America, as it takes a serious look into the racial tensions and cultural turmoil over the past 100+ years in America. From the momentous death of MLK to Russell’s home being invaded by racists and his life threatened, these parts of the documentary are so saddening, and heartbreaking to see how racist America was/is/can be. We learn about Russell growing up in a white America, and what it was like being a black athlete and fighting for equality in the sport, and in society. 

READ: Best Documentary Series on Netflix in 2023

There are extracts from Bill’s memoir, used as a voice-over as we see clips from the past, some in black and white, to help convey what he was feeling and experiencing at the time. Russell talks about his childhood, his failures, his successes, his relationships, his activism, and his final thoughts on his life and career. It’s personal, but without being too vulnerable, there is a strength and power to his story that makes him a fighter, and someone who wanted to improve and be the best he could be. 

This documentary features interviews with family, friends, and famous friends/faces such as Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and more. It goes in-depth into the development of the sport, the players, and the NBA as a whole. There is a great mixture between learning about Bill Russell personally and professionally. What is lovely is that everyone has such positive and respectful things to say, and the influence he had will be in the history books. From watching this I have learned a lot about Bill Russell, racial tensions in America, and the NBA.

Is the documentary film Bill Russell: Legend good?

Yes — if you’re a fan of sports, reality, personalities, and biographies, this documentary will be an insightful and entertaining watch for you. The docuseries has two episodes, which are roughly one hour and a half each. While they’re full of information and history, I would have personally preferred either one whole documentary with a rough two-hour runtime or three one-hour episodes. This is because after the first episode you’ve heard and seen a lot and it’s easy to disengage after and not watch the second episode. However, it’s a well-crafted documentary with a final message of positivism, and influence as Russell has laid a foundation for people going forward. The docuseries ends with a heartfelt montage of clips of Russell throughout the years and was bittersweet. 

What did you think of the Netflix documentary film Bill Russell: Legend? Comment Below.

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